Over 140 companies on an industrial estate in Mildenhall, Suffolk, reckon their local market trading low carbon electricity is slashing bills by between 20% and 90%.

Two years ago, far-sighted West Suffolk Council teamed up with Manchester deeptech start-up UrbanChain to create a local market in green energy trading for small firms.

“It’s working and it has developed,” said Andy Oswald, who manages West Suffolk Council‘s energy generation.

“It’s a great result that we are powering our own estate using UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer network. Our partners are consuming 100% locally generated renewable electricity.”

Oswald’s local authority has 272kWp of solar PV installed on 10 commercial buildings based within the council-owned industrial estate. At nearby Exning, the rural council also runs its own 12MWp solar farm.

Peer-to-peer energy trading is a relatively new form of provision in Britain. It enables businesses, organisations and individuals to sell electricity to others directly, without the complexity and multimillion pound cost of paying Ofgem for a supplier’s licence. UrbanChain claims to be Britain’s leading provider of peer-to-peer exchange services.

Being part of UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer exchange has enabled the council’s renewable generators to make offers at least up to 35% better than open market tariffs.

Andy Oswald said: “We identified UrbanChain in 2021 and they were exactly where we needed them to be as they had developed a peer-to-peer platform.

“At first we were looking at it from a business point of view but we soon knew that UrbanChain’s platform could facilitate our long term goal of utilising our own solar farm energy for our estate.

Thurston, straight outta Bury St Edmunds

“What they do is use deeptech (- AI and Blockchain – to match local production with local consumption. That helps lift any worries regarding grid capacity, for example”, Oswald explained.

Self-styled market disruptors UrbanChain currently manage over 200GWh of renewable energy trades. The firm says it has a further 3.3TWh in its pipeline.

Founded in 2017 by Manchester University PhD Dr Somayeh Taheri and COO Mo Hajhashem, in May this year the company closed a £5.25m Series A investment round led by leading Paris-based global financiers Eurazeo. The six-year old start up also received this year a £430,000 investment from Whitehall’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, on top of funding from Innovate UK.

Using integrated blockchain and AI, UrbanChain matches generators of renewable energy and consumers on a half hourly basis.

Local authorities, social housing associations, power generators, private companies from multiple sectors, manufacturers, households and energy suppliers all feature as participants in UrbanChain’s UK renewable energy trading.

CEO Dr Somayeh Taheri said: “We firmly believe that UrbanChain is the future of electricity markets. Mildenhall Industrial Estate is just one example of the multiple benefits our peer-to-peer energy exchange platform provides.

“Put simply, we enable reductions for energy consumers who want to meet Net Zero objectives by consuming 100% clean, local and traceable energy. Every participant in an energy market benefits.”

Embracing public buildings including a leisure centre, a library, NHS and police facilities, the two-year old £39m Mildenhall Hub generates more electricity than it consumes, observed West Suffolk Council’s Oswald.

“Our solar farm, as well as some roof-mounted exported solar, is also feeding into UrbanChain’s peer-to-peer network and we are purchasing our electricity from it“, said the council officer.

“The great thing is that we are able to bring partner organisations on as both generators and consumers, but primarily as consumers.

“I think the electricity industry is now recognising the role of peer-to-peer networks as it is all about using electricity in a smarter way.”

West Suffolk’s energy boss added: “Consumers are recognising this as it can generate financial savings for businesses and organisations because it is a cheaper way to purchase electricity. That’s the bottom line. But it’s also 100% renewable and it is local energy.

“Solar’s downside is that it is cyclical and its generation is time-dependent“, Oswald went on. “But UrbanChain has brought generation assets including wind and hydro into their mix, so that reliable electricity is offered at night and on winter days.

“As a local authority signing up to it we hope that it will give other organisations the confidence to go with it too. It’s a new way of trading and purchasing electricity and we very much advocate it and hope more will take the leap of faith so to speak.”

For more information, contact UrbanChain or their media representatives.


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